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Traffic Counter
[With Permission] 
 
 
 
"MADE IN SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA, USA"
Ernie Ball / Musicman Factory Tour
April 20, 2004


Words and Photos by Stingraymund

After posting on an online Musicman bass forum about fret buzzing on my Stingray 5-string, a Musicman employee graciously invited me to come over to the factory to have it worked on, at at extremely reasonable price. Call me hardcore, but I took a day off work and drove 200 miles from Los Angeles to the central California town of San Luis Obispo just to get this done. Jon, the Musicman employee, was kind enough to give me a tour. After donning some safety goggles and whipping out my digital camera, here's what I saw...

This unassuming, nondescript structure in the southern part of San Luis Obispo is where it all begins: The Ernie Ball Musicman factory.

This stack of alder wood will soon be carved into bodies for Musicman basses and guitars.
 
Templates mark the outlines for Stingray 4 and SUB basses.
 
This computerized milling machine accurately drills the neck pocket, pickup and control cavities and all screw holes into a Stingray body.
 
A finished left-handed Stingray body, fresh from the milling machine.

A SUB body, comprised of two pieces of wood.
 
This machine cuts the outlines of Sterling necks.
 
Though still newly-cut, these slabs of maple already bear an unmistakable shape...
 
Fret slots are cut in this table.
 
By hand and by machine, frets are added onto the necks.
 
Nearly-completed necks are placed on this cart. The date stamp on your neck is usually done at this phase.
 
A stack of Bongo bodies await sanding.
 
In the sanding room, bodies are smoothened out first by machines.
 
More finer sanding is done by hand.
 
A set of necks awaiting painting. Note the fret boards are masked off.
 
Bongo5 necks fresh from the paint room.
 
A cart of freshly-painted necks.
 
Bodies are painted in one of these metal chambers. A line of painted and to-be-painted bodies stand. The "necks" that are on them are just temporary handles for the bodies as they get moved along the production line.
 
Painted bodies are dried off in this heated room.
 
Temporary tags are placed on each body, which is then scanned by a buffing robot, which reads which model and what color they are and places them in the appropriate buffing wheel. The buffing process is what gives each bass or guitar body that shine.
 
The buffing robot shines a Musicman guitar.
 
The electronics are assembled here. The sticker on one of your control pots bearing the manufacture date is likely placed there by this guy.
   
The familiar crescent shape of the control assemblies. Here they are completed and await installation.
 
Pickups are installed into this Bongo.
 
This beautiful newly-completed honeyburst Stingray body with a white pearloid pickguard awaits final assembly...
 
...Which will be joined with one of these necks.
 
This black Stingray is about to have a set of Ernie Ball Slinkys strung on. The white tubes in the back hold the strings.
 
It takes roughly six weeks to go from block of wood to completed instrument. Roughly 70-80 basses and guitars are completed by the Musicman factory each day. This dry erase board tracks down productivity. Note the SUB models are tracked separately.
 
My '91 Stingray5 comes back home to get a fret dressing by Jon S. (aka jonguitarz) at his work bench, which was originally Leo Fender's work bench. What better place to get it done than the place where my bass was born? When all was said and done, my Stingray5 was literally reborn, with even frets which were as shiny as they were when they were first installed!


A million thanks to Jon S. from Ernie Ball/Musicman for some great work and an awesome tour!

 

 



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